May 29, 2014

Time: 8:00 – 9:30 AM
Brown Center, Room 320 (1301 W Mt Royal Ave)

Darcy Accardi, Robin Budish, Liz Briscoe, Celeste Chavis, Rufus Davis, Charlie Duff, Peter Duvall, Terry Freeland, Gregory Friedman, Tony Greene, Bill Hamilton, Bob Hellauer, Tom Hewitt, Steve Holt, Jeff LaNoue, Robbyn Lewis, Mac Maclure, Parker Maclure, Benoit Mayaux, Luke Mowbray, Brian O’Malley, Caroline Peri, Klaus Philipsen, Jasmine Bazinet-Phillips, Jeremy Pomp, Jimmy Rouse, Martin Schwartz, Greg Smith, Jill Sorensen, Sandy Sparks, Kristin Speaker, Karen Stokes, Michael Walk

Moderator: Jeff LaNoue, Project and Sustainability Planner at University of Baltimore
Jeff welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked the attendees for coming. He then introduced and turned the meeting over to Jimmy Rouse, Transit Choices.

  • DOT & MTA Meetings Review – Jimmy reported that representatives from Transit Choices met with the Mayor’s Office (Khalil Zaied, Director of Operations), CityDOT (William Johnson, Director), MTA (Robert Smith, Administrator & CEO) and MDOT (Danyell Diggs, Special Assistant to the Secretary) to present the “Quick Hits” list of low cost, high impact and high visibility improvements to our transit system. It was agreed that quarterly meetings would be held to discuss the progress being made and obstacles to the implementation of the “Quick Hits” list. Additionally, two monthly staff meetings and one meeting to discuss complete streets were held with CityDOT. All of the meetings were received favorably, and the level of cooperation and enthusiasm has been remarkable. Jimmy emphasized the importance of being specific with the city and state in order to be effective. For a full list of the Transit Choices “Quick Hits” visit
  • Vinnie DeMarco Meeting Review: “Recommendations for a Grass Roots Campaign”, Jimmy Rouse and Robin Budish met with Vinnie DeMarco who is a longtime advocate for public health causes. Mr. DeMarco is considered to be a real leader in the state and it was fascinating to learn more about his successful strategy for a grass roots campaign. Jimmy then shared visually, a one page “grass roots” letter that Vinnie recommended we draft as part of our outreach and education efforts. Specifically, Transit Choices will go back to the original list of signatories who are in support of our mission, and ask them to sign the letter to show that they are in support of our “Quick Hits” list. In phase 2, we will create another letter outlining our long range plans and vision for improving mass transit, and go back to the signatories asking for their continued support. Jimmy reiterated the importance of communicating with our list of signatories and the need to expand our grass roots support.
Discussion Points:
  • Charlie Duff: the one page letter is great if the audience is legislators. For our purposes, we may want to consider starting the letter with the second paragraph. Please see attached draft letter.
  • Greg Smith: stating the problem up front is a good idea. To be effective however, we need a lot of signatures. Jimmy Rouse responded that Vinnie DeMarco had 600 organizations sign on to his support letter.
  • Klaus Philipsen: the issue is not so much a lack of what “is on the ground”, the problem is that transit is not connected horizontally which is what the focus should be.

Clayton Baker Trust Grant Award: it was reported that Transit Choices received a grant from Clayton Baker Trust in the amount of $10,000, and is waiting to hear about funding from the Goldseker Foundation. It is essential that Transit Choices be able to increase its staffing to develop a more effective grass roots campaign.

Presentation: Michael Walk, Director of Service Development with the MTA
Topic: “An Update of MTA’s Bus Network Improvement Project; Where we are and What’s Next”

  • Michael began his presentation by sharing some general themes from the “Year 1 Plan” for the Bus Network Improvement Project (BNIP) throughout the city. One of the major focuses of the project is to repair the foundation and build confidence. His PowerPoint presentation will be made available to the full Transit Choices group at a future date.
  • The BNIP project is to develop a plan for updating and improving MTA’s bus service. It aims to maximize service quality and transit access through an up-to-date analysis of ridership and regional land-use data and with the assistance of public input.
  • The MTA bus system presently handles over 80 million riders annually over 62 routes.
  • The MTA bus network is not working optimally. There are problems with on-time performance, reliability, crowding, lines that do not serve customer’s needs, and low customer satisfaction. It has been over a decade since the last system-wide improvement study, and it is time to review and update the system to better serve the region.
  • Buses are considered to be a key mode of public transit and if the MTA does not do it right, everything suffers.
  • The overall goal of the MTA is to have an actionable & sustainable plan for the bus system. Their Initiatives are about regaining the trust of the region. They need to “right the ship” and focus on the quality of service & quantity provided for the region.
  • The MTA will be monitoring the success of the BNIP project and assessing the user experience through 1) rate your ride, 2) on board feedback, 3) MTA call center and, 4) in-house data systems.
Discussion Points:
  • Jimmy Rouse thanked Michael for his informative and impressive presentation, acknowledging that the MTA has a huge and complicated job trying to improve the quality of bus service in the city. Further, Jimmy offered the support of Transit Choices for the BNIP project.
  • Charlie Duff commented that reliability does not address frequency. Michael Walk responded that this issue will not be addressed in year 1. Michael was also asked about whether there will be new bus routes (yes, this will be part of unveiling the new plan) and changes to existing bus routes (yes, possibly with some bus stop re-locations).
  • Peter Duvall mentioned that schedule problems with drivers not showing up for work and having no replacements throws the schedule off. He asked if this was a year 1 priority. Michael responded that although this is not a simple solution, the MTA is addressing and working on this issue.
  • Bob Hellauer asked if the grid system still in the works. Michael said yes, but the details will be announced in the full plan in July 2014.
  • Brian O’Malley suggested that people don’t attack the BNIP plan if it is not perfect – we should work with the MTA, show support and make constructive comments.
  • Luke Mowbray complimented Michael on the good work the MTA is doing and asked if the implementation of the full BNIP roll out will include new maps and bus routes. Michael responded that all changes will be implemented over time.
Other Comments:
  • Jimmy Rouse reported that according to Henry Kay (MTA), there is no transit planning being discussed beyond the Red Line. The Transit Choices group needs to envision what a potential transit system would look like for the city.
  • Brian O’Malley remarked that connecting land use to transportation is very important, and that the city is looking at Transit Oriented Development (TOD) opportunities around the Red Line stops. Additionally, CityDOT is applying to the U.S. Department of Transportation for a grant to study TOD opportunities.
  • Greg Smith said that the city is looking at North Avenue as a potential transit hub.
  • Robin Budish thanked Rufus Davis on behalf of MICA for their generous gift of providing meeting space.